Category : Equipment Reviews

Meade ETX105 Telescope Review

Meade ETX105 TelescopeMy son was lucky enough to have won the Cambridge Young Astronomers prize of a 2nd hand Meade 105ETX at the 25 anniversary event in 2015. So I thought I would do a quick Meade ETX105 telescope review.

I had previously taken the main telescope part out one evening and placed it on a table top and manually viewed The Moon, Saturn and Venus. But as the evening was looking to be clear and the moon was already out in the afternoon I decided to get the full tripod and telescope out.

I set up the Meade deluxe tripod and screwed on from below the main ETX telescope part. I then plugged in the handset and used a portable power tank to power the telescope. I leveled the telescope and pointed it north and made sure the main tripod leg was also facing roughly north. I then turned on the telescope and ran through the alignment setting. I chose ‘Easy’ align, which selected 2 stars for me, I just aligned both stars in the eyepiece and pressed ‘Enter’. The alignment was successful.

I then chose a tour, ‘Tonights Best’. which runs through a list of available sights. Although I must say all were not that visible in this 100mm scope. Some sights did stand out though, these were the Moon (of course), Saturn, M13 and the Ring Nebula. Other sights were hard to see like galaxies and the dumbbell nebula, although seeing was not that perfect and there was a lot of cloud around.

I was quite impressed that after just 2 alignment stars that most of the objects I chose did appear in or near the centre of the eyepiece. The telescope does suffer from quite a bit of backlash in one direction when using the handset. I was quite happy about the motor noise, the motors are reasonably quiet, and I did expect them to be noisier.

I tried some imaging of the moon, by placing the ZWO Optical ASI120MM-S mono camera into the eyepiece holder. I took about 1000 frames at about 40fps using SharpCap v2. I must say the seeing was terrible and moon was among clouds, but the images seemed quite promising. Obviously not the best moon images I have ever taken, but fun to have a go at.

Moon ETX105 Photo

Moon ETX105

It’s nice to have available a portable mount and telescope that tracks the night sky. The downside is that the EXT105 is no longer in production, so getting accessories for it can be hard. It would be nice to get an adapter so the ETX105 could take a DSLR camera either at the back or even better on the top.

QHY5 vs DMK21 for Guiding

I have always used my QHY5 for guiding, most of the time attached to a Skywatcher 9×50 finderscope and it has worked quite well.

But while at Kelling Heath this year I purchased an Altair Astro 80mm guidescope. Did I need to? I don’t know, may be a 60mm would have been a good upgrade as opposed to going for the larger 80mm. But anyway, I have now started to realise that the original QHY5 does suffer from some image degradation in the form of banding. (I do already use simple dark frames with the QHY5 camera).

Now instead of purchasing a QHY5 II Mono, I have been thinking about using my DMK21 AU618 camera instead.

I know the DMK21 sensor is half the size of the QHY5, so finding a guide star may be harder – but I bet the quality of the image will be a lot better. Plus it would mean I would not need to purchase a new camera but use the DMK21 that I already own.

So on the next clear night I shall try out the DMK21 for autoguiding and see what happens and report back.

UPDATE: 11th November 2014

Well last night I went out and tried the DMK21 for guiding. It worked OK, in Maxim DL the guiding calibrated OK. But the actual guiding itself was not that smooth, certainly not as smooth as when I use the QHY5.

I don’t think the small sensor and field of view is a major problem, as I found lots of stars in the field of view. But it could be because the DMK21 is only 640×480 – the sensor is so small you can’t bin the camera, so it lacks the sensitivity that you can get with the QHY5 camera when you bin the images as it’s 1280×1024 pixels.

Helios Nature Sport 7×50 Binoculars Review

Helios Naturesport BinocularsI already have a rather large pair of 15×70 binoculars. These are fine and give you a great view, but sometimes too much magnification, that you don’t know where you are in the sky. Plus they are also very heavy and you can’t keep them still in your hands for too long, they really need to be attached to a tripod.

So I wanted a pair of binoculars that were the complete opposite to the ones I have. So I went for the lowest power magnification I could find at 7x but I still wanted to gather a fair bit of light so went for 50mm objective lenses.

The Helios Nature sport 7×50 binoculars provided me with the specification I wanted, plus they were rubberised and quite light.

I did have a budget, but didn’t want a cheap pair as I am always worried about cheap binoculars and how they may easily go wrong. I paid £60 for the Helios Naturesport binoculars.

One of the major benefits was that these binoculars are ‘focus free’. There is no middle focuser on the binoculars. I think that’s a bonus, as that’s another part that can’t go wrong. The focus is fixed using a specially designed eyepiece that allows the image to be perfectly sharp from the near focus point of 20m to infinity.

I was amazed to see how these ‘focus free’ binoculars actually worked. When I bought them I only managed to look down a street in the daytime. But I was pleasantly surprised how sharp the view was to infinity and as close as 18m away.

The binoculars come with a padded carry case was well as end caps and cleaning cloth. They also have a binocular screw hole so you can connect them to a tripod if required.

The anti-reflection multi-coatings and BK7 optics (all lenses and prisms) deliver excellent light transmission and sharp high-contrast image replication.

So what are they like at night time for astronomy? Well, you can see Jupiter and its moons. You can easily see the Pleiades with a lot of sky around them. The moon is not that big but you can just make out the craters along the terminator. I would suggest more magnification if you want really good lunar views.

For an idea of what the field of view is like, you can fit the whole of Orion’s belt and sword into the field of view and make out the Orion Nebula.

The great thing is you don’t have to focus, just point them up to whatever you want and view! Easy.

Magnification: 7x
Brightness: 28.35
Twilight rate: 25.8
FOV: 114m @ 1000m,
Dimensions: 185 x 62 x 170mm
Weight: 780g
Close focus 15m

by Daniel Coe

QHY IMG132E Camera Images and Review

My good friend Mick Jenkins has just purchased a new QHY IMG132E camera from Modern Astronomy, and he has had a really good first night with the QHY IMG132E camera.

Mick has a Meade LX200 8″ telescope and was previously using a Celestron NexImage for lunar and planetary imaging.

Mick was stated as saying “I am very impressed with the image quality of the camera, the colour range, tonal range and sharpness. Jupiter shows Io and its shadow on the cloud tops and greater detail in the bands. All the Moon photos have a greater tonal range and detail compared with the webcam, the Cassini image was taken at 1200 x 1000 at 27 fps 600 frames”.

He went on to say “It wasn’t a particularly good night with some high cloud and I had to load the software and learn the new software, there are a lot more controls than the webcam, this QHY IMG132E has a lot of potential and I am looking forward to imaging Saturn and Mars”.

So he was very impressed with it, which makes me wonder if I should get one as well. I currently have an Imaging Source DMK21 mono, which is great for lunar and solar imaging, but it’s a pain having to change the filters to get a colour planetary image, so I may go for a colour camera next time, plus the DMK21 640×480 size is a bit small sometimes, so a bigger chip like the one on the QHY IMG132E would be better.

But let’s look at the images:

All images by Mick Jenkins 2012

Observatory Power Supply from Rapid

Whenever you buy a dew heater system you need something to power it, for some reason I went for a Battery Powerpack from Maplin, which is very good and has an invertor on it, compressor, 2 12v cigar sockets and a USB charger socket, battery clamps, a worklight etc etc.

But I hate having to remember to charge it every time the day before I want to observe. So to get around this I purchased a 12v 4.8w Solar Panel from Maplin to keep the battery topped up. This is a good idea, but the window in my observatory does not get much light and there is not much sun around in the winter.

So I decided to instead purchase a desktop power supply for the observatory, why I never bought one in the first place – god only knows! As I have power sockets in the observatory. It was probably because everyone seemed to have a Powertank so I thought I’d better get one as well.

After scanning the web and the astronomy retailer sites, I wanted an observatory power supply which did not have a fan in it (I like silence when observing), one that had enough amps to power my equipment and one that did not cost too much to have it posted to me, as these things are heavy.

Rapid Power Supply

In the end I purchased the Rapid 4A 13.8V Fixed output DC regulated power supply. It was only £43.20 inc VAT with Free Delivery.

I ordered it at lunchtime direct from Rapid and it came via UKMail the next day, looking at it, it seems very well made and robust and does the job nicely.

The new version is the 85-1714 Rapid PSU

I can thoroughly recommend it as a silent observatory power supply for your telescope, dew heaters, CCD cameras etc.

Rapid 13.8v 4-6amp Observatory Power Supply Features:

  • Fixed 13.8V DC output
  • Screw connectors and 12V cigarette lighter accessory socket
  • High stability
  • Low ripple and noise
  • Compact size
  • Overload and short circuit protection
  • Galvanised steel case
  • Polycarbonate front panel
  • Cooled by natural convection
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